Thomas (Tom) D. McMahon: He Had an ‘affinity for the underdog’

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Thomas (Tom) D. McMahon horse This February 14, 2021 Thomas D. McMahon, Esq. left this world in loving family embrace. He died at home in his cherished community of Shelter Cove where he resided for thirty five years. Born in New York June 19, 1925, to a multi-generational family of NYPD officers. In 1942, a sixteen year old Xavier High School student, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was posted to the 8th Air Force 369th Squadron 306th Heavy Bombardment Group and started flying missions from Thurleigh, England, as an aircrew tailgunner on B-17 aircraft. Returning home from WWII service a decorated combat veteran, he joined the FDNY working Rescue One. He married and started a family in New York while furthering his education. He graduated from New York Law School and obtained several teaching credentials.

Having been introduced to California during the war, the athletic swimmer and former lifeguard moved the family, now grown to six children, west to Southern California in the early 60’s. He planned to teach and was determined to learn what surfing was all about.

He taught elementary students to Marine Corps enlistees, and chartered a surf club, before moving north in the late 70’s when he found Shelter Cove. He never wanted to be far from the ocean and thought it the perfect place. It was rugged but he was ready and drawn to the isolation of the coast. He enjoyed grabbing waves and swapping surf lore with surfers at the ramp who were at first a few but now are many.Thomas (Tom) D. McMahon surf

Settling in at Shelter Cove he added three more children to his family and found much solace by getting back in touch with his Catholic faith through the sisters at the Redwoods Monastery, whom he considered family. Often he could be seen, face to wind, motoring his trike out to the monastery or to town, which he did for the last time in September.

Joining VFW Post 6354 was a gift to his spirit as a result of the support he received and was able to give back to fellow veterans. It really made an impact on him. Throughout his time in SoHum he embraced many people from all walks of life and always said he had an “affinity for the underdog.”

He is survived by his wife of thirty five years, Kathryn McMahon and their children, Benson D. McMahon (Aleks) of Shelter Cove, Ca., and Molly K. McMahon (Matt) of Benbow, Ca.; a son, James M. McMahon (Carrie) of Briceland, Ca.; his children from his first marriage, Thomas P. McMahon (Barb) of Eureka, Ca., Stephen F. McMahon (Carol) of Kingman, Az., Jospeph X. McMahon (Tracey) of Carlsbad, Ca., Cecilia A. Sawyer (Terry) of Carlsbad, Ca., and Annette M. Downey (Mike) of Fortuna, Ca.; his twin sister Andrea M. McCabe of Mesa, Az.; 21 grandchildren; 36 great grandchildren and 8 nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his parents, James J. McMahon and Adelaide J. McMahon; a brother James H. McMahon; former wife Winifred N. McMahon and a daughter Yvonne A. McMahon.

To any that wish to honor his memory please support the preservation of the John Haynes Memorial Veterans Hall; VFW Post 6354, Box 133, Garberville, CA, 95542, with letters or donations, or Redwoods Monastery, A memorial service will be held on Memorial Day 2021 at Mal Coombs park in Shelter Cove commencing at 1 pm.Thomas (Tom) D. McMahon motorcycle

For more on Tom, see: Tom McMahon: An Incredible Story of a Local Man Who Was Captured by the Nazis



  • This is my brothers Patrick McMahon and Thomas S McMahon’s grandpa I actually have photos as a kid with him he was a good man I was never that close with alot of the family he has a very large family. Lots of love and condolences to my extended family.

  • I should have also included my other brother Danny McMahon and my sister Jennifer McMahon

  • I feel fortunate to have met him, he was a real gentleman and had a wicked sense of humor. Heartfelt condolences to all his family, especially Katie.

  • Tom was a blessed man, to have such a large loving family. That is a tribute to his heart and character. I hope his new journey is a continuation of good blessings for Tom and his family.

  • I was lucky to have been aquainted with him.
    He was definitely one of ‘The Old Breed’.
    That is a great picture of him surfing.
    I am amazed at how much he and Jamie looked alike when Tom was young.

    My sincerest condolences to the family.

  • Wasn’t there an article about Tom’s adventures and heroism during the war, a week ago or so? I can’t find it now. Maybe it wasn’t on here. It doesn’t come up at all. But i know i had just read about this man.

  • My prayers and condolences to all the McMahon family.a great man. And awesome glad to get to aee him in my life very you all. And soar like an eagle tom

  • I didn’t know him personally but I know perdeda, patrick, thomas, Dave, there mother and some other family members. I send my condolences…

  • For me Tom had a deep spiritual side to him. I loved Tom. He possessed that Bronx Baroque kind of attitude which made me laugh. His insightfulness, accepting no bs was priceless. He called it and made no bones about it. That is how I saw him anyway. I always found him entertaining, educated with no pretense. I’m glad you shared all those years together and gave the world two beautiful children

  • I am astonished and grateful to have counted Tom as a good friend and a wise source of advice in my life.. His story is truly amazing.. He once suggested a response to a guy who was dangerously angry with me.. He said: “Ask him if there’s anything you can do to help him..” Brilliant, and it worked.. I will miss Tom forever.. Thanks old friend..

  • Tom was one of a kind and I’ll miss his spot-on insights about the world and humankind. I truly thought he would live forever and he almost did. My condolences to his family and I’ll sure miss his smile and his conversation.

  • Thanks for your service Tom! You did good while here on earth! That’s so awesome! We were all blessed to have known you, you helped a lot of people, carrying a message of wisdom and gratitude in your heart. You will be missed. Until we meet again. ❤️🙏🏼

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